04 November 2010

Liverpool 3-1 Napoli

Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Konchesky
Spearing Poulsen
Shelvey Meireles Jovanovic

Lavezzi 28'
Gerrard 75' 88' (pen) 89'

Ste Gerrard, Gerrard. He's big and he's fucking hard. And he can still win games almost single-handedly.

With a similar line-up to that which started in Italy, the first half went as feared. Napoli found it far easier to penetrate with the home side more interested in maintaining possession – although it unsurprisingly led to few efforts on goal – leaving Liverpool exposed on the counter-attack, capitalizing when usual scapegoat Poulsen made a jaw-dropping mistake in the 28th.

Attempting to clear, the Dane badly mistimed his jump, heading straight to Cavani. The Uruguayan slotted it through to Lavezzi, beating the offside trap as Johnson stepped up when Kyrgiakos didn't, and the forward made no mistake in sliding his shot under the diving and helpless Reina. Liverpool almost replied immediately, though Ngog thanks to Poulsen's throughball, only to see the striker push his shot wide under pressure from Aronica, but the home team struggled to make headway against an increasingly deeper defense, who were happy to protect what they had.

Bringing Gerrard on at halftime ultimately won Liverpool the game, but for almost half an hour, it only made Liverpool narrower. It was a surprise to see the captain replaced Jovanovic – one of the few who actually looked a threat in the first frame. Meireles and Shelvey manned the flanks with Gerrard behind Ngog, and the lanky Frenchman had a second opportunity to equalize in the 51st, foiled by De Sanctis' foot after nice work from Shelvey and Meireles, but Liverpool didn't truly improve until Eccelston replaced Poulsen with 25 minutes to play.

Despite his inexperience, adding Eccleston's pace (and removing one of the five central midfielders) gave the home side far more impetus. Meireles should have leveled seconds later, missing a close-range shot by inches after Ngog's control inadvertently set him up with a sitter. But then, we got yet another Steven Gerrard show.

And it started thanks to a former Liverpool player. Shelvey picked up possession in a dangerous area and ran at the defense, only to be crowded out. But Andrea Dossena's soft backpass allowed Gerrard to charge in, reaching the keeper just as he attempted a diving clearance, tackling the ball into the net.

When Lucas replaced the injured Ngog – hobbled by a horrible tackle that the referee somehow missed – with seven minutes to play, it appeared Liverpool were happy with what they had. But three minutes later, Johnson charged forward, played into space by a lovely ball from Meireles, winning a penalty with a wicked run into the box. Funny how things like that happen when an attacking right-back's allowed to attack. Gerrard duly converted the spot kick, with De Sanctis going the right way but unable to keep out the vicious blast.

A minute later, the captain wrapped up the three points and snatched a deserved 14-minute hat-trick. Lucas latched onto Dossena's poor control of Spearing's header, tackling straight to the captain, who chipped the keeper with a Dalglish-esque finish.

Yes, Gerrard's heroics will obscure others' subpar displays. It's beating the same drum time and time again, but Poulsen yet again proved he shouldn't be anywhere near the starting XI. Like so many other matches, this was The Gerrard Show, and otherwise a fairly poor team performance until the final 25-30 minutes. But regardless of any complaints about the tactics or personnel, it's an incredibly heartening victory – Liverpool's third successive – if only because it proves that the captain can still do it. Besides Gerrard's genius, young players like Shelvey, Spearing, and Eccleston had a chance to shine at Anfield, Carragher and Kyrgiakos were solid at the back, Johnson finally reminded us what he can do in the opposition's final third, Torres was rested with no consequences, and as against Bolton, Liverpool demonstrated they still have late winners in the locker.

Obviously, you wish the victory was more emphatic, cohesive, and thorough, but this still sets Liverpool up nicely for Chelsea's visit on Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. They looked dead at halftime. Wow Stevie!

Joel said...

Have to say that was the epitome of being saved by Stevie. Roy's horrendous tactics and subs nearly outdid him on this one.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see John Henry showing some passion there in the stands, too. He may get as angry as us when he sees losses from now on.

Anonymous said...

Winning feels good. Let's keep it up! What a day for Captain Fantastic, and it was good to hear that some of the younglings made an impact. Hopefully we get some quality home-grown talent from the current crop.

Also, it's beginning to sound like Ngog is turning in to a legitimate contender for the first XI. Maybe a strike partner for Torres? I doubt he'll ever be a top class striker, but in the next transfer session, maybe we skip on a striker and invest in some out-and-out wingers? Particularly left side wingers.

This is assuming of course that Torres stays with us.

m said...

This shit made my day. How this man is still available to win the game on his own - you really cant find good words to describe how he's important to lfc, can you point anyone in the world with such a passion and contribution?

Anonymous said...

brilliant tactical display from Roy. We dominated the game and routed Napoli. All those calling for Roy to be sacked now see their folly. Bring on Chelsea.

Anonymous said...

"We dominated the game?"

Are you kidding? We were dominated for at least half of that game. I see nothing tactically that Roy did to influence the game in any meaningful way other than inserting the teams best player in at halftime.

And Shelvey was a disaster.

nate said...

Wondering if the comment two above this is a joke. Liverpool came nowhere near to dominating the game.

Napoli were closer to "dominating" the first half, and made life a lot easier for Liverpool by retreating after scoring the first goal, turning a 3-4-2-1 into almost a 5-3-2 (Lavezzi ahead of the invisible Hamsik, near to central striker Cavani).

Gerrard's entrance surely helped, but Liverpool didn't "dominate" the second half until Poulsen went off, with Eccleston's pace clearly unsettling the Italians. Yes, Liverpool could have been up 2-1 by the 65th had Ngog and Meireles taken their chances, but it still wasn't domination in any sense of the word.

And Napoli errors presented Liverpool with chances for all three goals. Yes, Gerrard did brilliantly to capitalize on the first and third (with Lucas playing a key role in the third as well), and Johnson bombing forward – aided by Dossena's retreat into his own half – caused the second. But a Dossena back-pass, Aronica's unnecessary penalty, and Lucas stealing in to nip away Dossena's poor control (PS: thanks, Agent Andrea) should be highlighted. But, that's football.

I'm happy with the result, and not too upset with the overall performance. Still not a huge fan of the tactics – surprise, surprise – but it was a young team on the whole, and Liverpool pulled it out in the end. And Gerrard was obviously the difference, which hasn't been the case nearly enough.

But it wasn't domination and it wasn't a revolution.

Jason said...

Does anyone else find it hard to tell who's who when Meireles, Shelvey, Konchesky, & Skrtel are on the field at once? We've clearly reached our tough looking, bald white guy quota.